tv Book Discussion on Teaching Law CSPAN January 20, 2014 1:00am-1:31am EST
challenged in the mid-20s at century and now the current kind of discourse over gun rights and the protections many of whom saw at the hands of the violence, how do you see that long rich tradition of farms being revised in this time that we have left? >> people have to make up their own mind about this. i tried to get lots of data. this is something that i teach that deals with the details on the questions of the risks and the benefits. we've got all kinds of data about the benefits of the firearms, defensive gun uses in the millions per year. you don't hear about them because they are brandishing episodes where no shots were fired and the deterrent value of the firearms chronicle by the centers for disease control and national crime victims survey.
you can read all the detail in the book. my assessment of this coming away is that on balance, we are better off if the members, the sober and the mature members of the community have the choice of owning firearms for self protection. it doesn't mean they don't have the costs and i think we are at a stage where hopefully we can have a less visceral and more of a koln conversation about whether there is a role for that tradition in the modern era and we can move away from the reflux that we have had over the last certainly 20 years that says well, these are legal instruments that we need to get away and out of the community. so the 40% of the folks that entered in the poll that they thought it was more important to
a poll of the individual right to arms, this book in some ways gives voice to those people and concerns and hopefully will cause others in the community to at least engage in the question at a more serious level than just the reflex reaction against guns that is a sort of character of what the actual conversation needs to be. >> host: well it certainly has given me a reason to revisit and with the more historic please inform perspectives so thank you for that contribution. >> guest: thank you. >> that was "after words," book tv signature program which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, and others familiar with
other material. "after words" errors every weekend on book tv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" on line. go to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the book tv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. professor robin west, author of teaching law talked to book tv about the problems facing the wall schools today including high cost, outdated curriculum and the lack of job opportunities among the graduation. she was interviewed at georgetown university and the part of book tv college series. >> you are watching book tv on c-span2. we are on location at the georgetown university school will flock here in washington, d.c. where we are interviewing professors who are also authors.
joining us now is professor robin west. her book, "teaching law" justice, politics and the demands of professionalism. here is the cover. professor west, what does it cost to go to law school today? >> guest: somewhere between 120 to $200,000. many of the students graduate with that amount of debt or more once you figure in the cost of living. it can be a significant financial investment. not all are that expensive of course. >> host: is it worth it? >> guest: they are graduating too many lawyers. over the last few years we have graduated somewhere around double the number of graduates
as there are jobs the economy can absorb and this has created a serious crisis of underemployment and lo and planned for the graduates many of whom are competing with lawyers that have been squeezed al gore have been unemployed the last two or two years to feed this is the biggest crisis in all schools right now and is the number of graduates who have finished law school but who are not able to find jobs. >> host: is a teaching and structured in the right to view? >> guest: the problem is not that we are teaching it in a terrible or bad way. i think it is inadequate for some purposes and i've suggested a number in the book but i don't think the problem is the basic structure of law school. it's simply there are too many schools graduating too many people into the market that has
become saturated. we need to cut back on the number of people who are attending and then graduating. that's the basic financial crisis the schools are facing. >> host: if we cut back on the number people graduating with that creates a shortage of people who need lawyers? >> guest: in some ways there is a shortage. the middle class in particular the sort of lower end of the middle class have problems finding lawyers they can afford to pay. people who have too much money to qualify for legal aid but are not sufficiently wealthy to pay top dollar for top lawyers can have trouble right now finding lawyers and if so it is a mismatch in the market between the middle class people who need lawyers for ordinary key events in their lifetime, writing a well, closing a housing sale, getting a divorce, negotiating a
custody agreement with a spouse for the care of children, these are ordinary eve sense that people in all economic life face and many people have trouble finding lawyers to meet those needs. so the problem isn't simply that there's an abundance. it's that we are graduating too many people who cannot simply move into pre-existing jobs but also cannot put together the resources and the skills necessary to go into an ordinary practice that they cannot afford the law firm prices. that is the overarching problem. >> host: is very difference between legal scholarship and practice of the law? >> guest: it is built by the practicing bar. judges and lawyers increasingly say the scholarship is not serving the professionalism and not serving the end of the legal profession. i'm not sure that is the problem
to meet the immediate end. to my mind what they should be doing is taking a eda attached view of the legal profession itself and suggesting they should do so towards the end of trying to critique as well as further the end of justice and asking questions about to what extent until all that we have today serve the justice and they should do so towards the end of the increasing hours about the legal system. they should in other words for the end of knowledge and truth and that traditional academy which will school today is situated. sometimes the scholarship will be of use but sometimes it won't be. sometimes it is more farsighted
than that. >> host: what do you teach of georgetown? >> guest: i teach contracts and seminars such as humanities and literature and jurisprudence >> host: have you practiced? >> guest: briefly after i graduated. >> host: wife briefly? >> guest: i knew half way through law school that i wanted to teach. i didn't go with that in mind. most go intending to be lawyers, not intending to be professors and so like most of my peers i decided i was teaching about halfway through. >> host: if you went out in the marketplace today would you feel qualified to practice law? >> guest: i wouldn't. because i have not studied with that goal in mind for many years and i have not maintained the
skills with that in mind for many years. i am in a legal academic for better or for worse and i feel quite comfortable in that role. i do not think they are easily interchangeable for many people first, they are. i've had colleagues in the country to combine teaching and legal scholarship and studies with some sort of practice, but that is not the norm. the norm is a legal academic who is a scholar and a teacher. >> host: what is an appellate practice? >> guest: rather than in front of a trial court. >> host: do you think it is necessary that you know how to practice as a scholar? >> guest: nels i think the scholars have different areas of expertise and should be masters of some aspect of law not
necessarily of legal practice. there are a number of scholars however who are masters of some aspect of the practice and there is a need for those people in the legal academy that i think it would be a shame as they took such a petit jury that the entire academy became in effect a vehicle for facilitating the oppressed ship. that is not what the legal academy has been for the last 100 years and that isn't what it is set up to do. we would lose a lot of heuvel you with the abandoned their role of examining and criticizing the legal institutions and professions themselves and instead fashion this soft words the end of
preparing them to the practice already said there would be tremendous opportunity costs in doing that. >> host: one of the cases that you like to go to win teaching class? >> guest: the case is i.e. in july are the first year common-law cases. there's nothing more fun than teaching the cases. these are cases that you may recall -- did you go to law school? >> guest: i did not. >> guest: many start out with a case of a father and his son in the early part of the 20th century suing their family doctor. he had an industrial accident and had seriously injured his hand. the only remaining injury was cosmetic. it looked somewhat deformed and a surgeon promised the father
and son the surgeon could make his hand hold and he then proceeded to do the option and i cannot worse than prior to the operations of the father and the sun sold the surgeon for the breach of the promise to make the hand hole and they had to grapple with the question of whether the promise the dr. name was enough like the kind of promises made in commercial context so as to warrant the use of the measure of damage that's appropriate and the court decided it was enough of a guarantee or warranty that lets say a machine part would be functioning to prevent the damages that gained the full value of the promise, the full value of a healthy hand and the required the court and the trial
and of the jury to determine the full well you have a healthy hand so that's an example of an interesting and fun case and also the case the movie the paper chase starts with. >> host: teaching oh-la-la justice politics and the demand of professionalism. you write critical legal scholars have complained for over 30 years that mainstream and doctrinal scholarship is nothing fancy academics pleading for approval from judges, scholarships and the contemporary version of this is effectively dead and has no passion, no sense of purpose and no large ideas to drive at. >> host: >> guest: i don't agree with that but i anderson and where he
is coming from. there is a worry over the last 50 years the scholars try to hard to produce a scholarship would fill the gap in the legal doctrine and when that is the goal of the legal scholarship is in effect reasoning and the same way when deciding a case that falls within the gap. if that's what it is the mayor isn't going to be very critical and that was his objection to the present trajectory. the leadership was very self confident in its role in the aftermath - seemed to people in
the academy and many judges and lawyers that problems in the social justice could be addressed in the court reasoning that we could think our way through we would create a more just society. so there is the fashioning of a gut and coherent and just policy that coming off of more coming from these foundational documents in the various civil-rights act and i think what has happened over the last few years that has led to the compliance like the professor is that that confidence has dwindled, has fallen away so the legal scholarship has lost its sense of robust engagement and
to my mind of a solution to that is not to pull back from the project of the scholarship but to be engaged in a more critical way and keep cutting environment. the problems that we are facing right now are not problems that are going to be resolved through thinking more clearly about the equal protection clause or the due process which we do have to think through ways to solve these problems that are global and existential, but it's not going to happen for the legal scholars making more modest suggestions for how to address to the to adjust the margins. >> host: you write the offer an education designed for professional the stunted
conception of what it means to be a lawyer. >> guest: the required courses allow all schools offer today is basically the same set that was offered in the 1950's and 30's and even the teens. the world has changed dramatically since then. the first set of courses is in the property and criminal dhaka. legal educators settled on that in a time in history when that curriculum made sense. most in that time was common law and was derived from the set of the english case law but most
was of that sort answer to teach the students what it meant to be a lawyer in the 1900's and even 1920 meant in large part to teach the skills of reasoning through the cases, a limited number of cases would do it. that is in the nature of the wall today or the legal practice. most today is not from the common law case. most is derived from statute enacted by congress and by state legislatures. so the focus in part has to shift away from dhaka court and be the originator and instead are the originators of the law that we have to become less focused and a little bit more legislation focused an hour orientation towards law.
second, the curriculum that we teach was put to better at the time when most was domestic. if you are going to become an american lawyer, you need to learn that it may be in the state in which you intend to practice. these days it would be tantamount of institutions of international law public and private and that was not on the agenda at the time when that 20th century curriculum was set and there were other differences and changes as well and i also think the law school curriculum that was set envisioned a kind of practice that was very bookish and again set on the knowledge that could be acquired
through internalizing and grapple with fees. all schools can and should be more ambitious and the lawyers need to know how to go through the puzzles that follow from the cases and the lawyers when they graduate from law school i do think should be at least introduced in some of the challenges that are going to face them in practice beyond the intellectual challenge of coming to grips with legal principles. on the other hand, fell law is complicated and hard and if we go too far towards the end of inculcating skills and values and students, we will be letting go of the goal of the large body of legal knowledge and the main task of the schoolhouse to remain that to educate students over a wide range of the legal
areas and the requires teaching them an awful lot of the law and so the resources we put into doing other things the more we take away from that central test. >> host: robin west come if you could start a law school how would you structure those three years and will be three years? >> guest: i think it would be three years. i think that the reform suggestion that we cut to is certainly well intentioned to cut back on the cost of the legal education which is a terrible problem these days but it's not that it's too long, they are too short. there is a lot to teach and communicate and i don't think it can be done in two years. mauney ideal all school would be different from the current model, but not radically different.
i think the first tier should be dedicated to teaching these required courses and common law courses. i also think at least half of the first year should be dedicated to teaching those that focus on the public mall areas that are derived from the statutory sources rather than from the common law. in the second year i think that they could and should strongly recommend a certain curriculum. the first year it's required in the second and third they are almost entirely elective and that leaves students floundering and doesn't reflect well on wall school. it's the statement about what a lawyer should know and should be and to some extent what bill
wall should be. and by saying it is all luck to you, just treat it as a menu and take what you want to take by the time what you want to get up in the morning and what your work schedule will be etc is to say that it has no view on what a lawyer should know on the required courses and much of what has become marginal or irrelevant to the malae years practice area but we should include quite a few recommended courses including corporate law which isn't required anywhere i know of but is central to the way they are organized for better or for worse and the tax law likewise isn't required but it ought to be and it's the one place where we do think about the issues in the social justice and how we distribute these.
very few require the international course and there are very few if any that require a course in basic justice which i think should be required or heavily recommended everywhere. so i would put a number of courses that reflect the school or the institutions view of what all should know and i call this a unitary view because i think they can do this if the faculty just focus on that and should require the students to take courses to meet that end and then in the third year i would suggest that students focus in on the specialty if they hit on one either through their studies or through their sar employment
and in the third year also take an experimental course that would at least introduce them to some of the challenges they will face in practice in that area they've chosen and the the third year should be devoted to the electives. students everywhere should take some course but introduce them to the disciplinary study either in social science class or philosophy or humanities or in economics, legal history, something to give them a broad cultural appreciation of how it fits into our collective societal knowledge. so i would recommend that all students do some sort of interdisciplinary legal studies course as well. but the main difference i would
think would be to require and recommend courses in the second year and such that the schools curriculum reflect the sense of what the lawyers should know. i wouldn't depend on the school to train lawyers. that is a popular recommendation these days. i do not think it is well advised. we would be giving up an awful lot and i think it is a great service to the country and future clients that we came to educate lawyers and not simply train them. >> host: what is your solution to many lawyers as you say? >> guest: the need to quit at mending so many students that is the obvious solution taking
people an awful long time to get their. i haven't looked at the numbers for a while but it's over half the in the last cycle that took in the students than they did the prior year, and so that will address the problem over time. it may be that some schools will close. but whether or not that is the case of the schools that remained for the most part have to start taking fewer students we can just take more knowing that a healthy percentage of them are not going to be able to find jobs as lawyers. that is just unacceptable both has the financial model and morally and i think they are coming to grips with this now and taking steps to correct it. shrinking the student body means you have designed ways to shrink your cost because you are giving a significant amount of revenue
so that is the economic challenge figuring out how to cover these costs. >> host: does that mean a more elite corps of the lawyers? >> guest: i don't think it should. as you may know others have suggested splitting of the academy in two different kinds of law schools that will follow this model and then training velte law schools which they claim can be run on the cheap model. that would create a very bifurcated profession and i think that that would be very unfortunate.
one of the virtues right now is there are lawyers at the very top of the income scale who are doing well for themselves. however, all by virtue of sharing in this common experience have a lot in common with each other that makes the profession itself someone democratic and also contributes to our national democracy that we have an ideal of what the legal training should be that really is the same for everyone regardless of income and family background so i do not want to give up on that. it doesn't run the risk of creating a more elite